It's Halloween! It's also Wednesday, which, for my money, has to be the worst possible day for Halloween to land on. If you're like me, you've already spent this past weekend engaging in all sorts of costumed debauchery, and the idea of heading off into the evening for another round of idiocy sounds, well, tiring.
And so, for weekday Halloweens, we usually turn inward. Maybe you go watch a bunch of scary movies, maybe you live in a neighborhood that actually gets trick-or-treaters, or maybe you're on deadline and are already calling the holiday a wash. (Can't imagine what that must feel like.) But I've got a better idea: This Halloween, boot up the Steam store, turn out all the lights and spend a few hours enjoying some of the greatest horror games to ever infect a PC. Here are seven choice recommendations that will leave you petrified and stress-eating candy corn when you're finished with them.
To this day, Amnesia remains one of the true cult classics of indie gaming, and something that kick-started a revolution on YouTube that's still reverberating to this day. You know PewDiePie? The Swedish dude who still has the most subscribers on the entire platform? He first got famous by screaming his head off while skulking through the malefic halls of Frictional Games' deathtrap. Amnesia is founded on a central tension — stay in the dark to avoid getting spotted by the monsters, but don't stay in the dark too long, because it will slowly drive you insane. Stretch that out to a full campaign, and you've got one of the most psychologically taxing adventures to ever hit a PC.
Oh, P.T. You burned twice as bright, but only half as long. If you follow the industry, you know the story: Hideo Kojima was leaving Metal Gear behind to take a crack at the vaunted, venerable Silent Hill franchise, but unfortunately got caught up in a whole ton of drama with Konami that eventually left him out of a job. Before that, though, we got P.T. — literally "Playable Teaser" — in which you walk through an ersatz, endlessly repeating corridor and slowly go insane. It's one of the best bits of interactive horror ever produced, and a real shame that the project never saw fruition.
There are two ways you can play Five Nights at Freddy's, (and its many, many sequels.) One, as an automated jumpscare delivery service in which demented Chuck E. Cheese-style animatronics continually fill your screen and swallow you whole. Or two, as a way to obsess over the vast network of cryptology and fragmented plot points to uncover a truly bonkers amount of world-building that rivals, like, Lost in terms of complexity and absurdity. Honestly, I recommend both. Have fun getting to know The Purple Guy!
The less said about Doki Doki Literature Club! the better. But just know that whoever had the idea of imbuing a fourth-wall-shattering psychological horror stampede into a entirely kawaii-looking visual novel is both a lunatic sadist, and a video game genius. Approach at your own risk.
I've never played this in virtual reality, because it sounds like one of the worst things you could possibly do to yourself, but I'm delighted such an option exists. Capcom went back to basics for the seventh entry of the Resident Evil series by putting a hapless dude in an horrible, dilapidated bayou mansion filled to the brims with a truly despicable, murderous family. If you were turned off by some of the tamer directions of Resident Evil 5 and 6, trust me, 7 will make you fear for your life, all over again.
SOMA was developed by Frictional Games, which is the same team that put together Amnesia, which serves as the headliner of this list. As far as pure spookiness go, Amnesia operates on an entirely different blood-soaked plane, but SOMA still packs a ton of tension and queasy ghoulies (in an effective, barnacle-encrusted underwater setting) that is plenty effective. More importantly though, SOMA is the first time Frictional have really shown off their writing chops — offering up a sinister, spellbinding sci-fi plot that forces you to question concepts like consciousness and self-awareness in some deeply upsetting ways. Seriously, it's almost Nolan-esque in scope, and I don't think the utter destitution of its ending will ever leave me.
Okay, I'm cheating here. Obviously Call of Duty isn't a horror game, (even if it might have a suitably zany Zombies mode,) but I gotta hand it to Black Ops 4 — its take on the Battle Royale genre is wonderfully anxious. If you don't know the Battle Royale formula, basically everyone airdrops into a giant, single server map to loot weapons and ammo with the hope of being the last soul left living at the end of the round. What that means is you can often go, like, 10 minutes at a time without seeing another player. You wanna know what's terrifying? Getting into a firefight after doing absolutely nothing for the first half of the match. It makes you think, maybe there actually is something kind of scary about being in an active warzone.